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Navigating the Maze of Horse Nutrition: Insights from Dr. Jyme Nichols of Bluebonnet Feeds

Last updated March 18, 2024 by Brook Norris

Dr. Jyme Nichols, the Director of Nutrition at Bluebonnet Feeds, join us to share her expertise in equine nutrition.

Journey into Equestrian Nutrition

Dr. Nichols' journey into equestrian nutrition began with a personal mission to bridge the gap between scientific research and practical horse care. Her role at Bluebonnet involves overseeing feed and supplement formulations, ensuring they are on the cutting edge of nutritional science. She also hosts the Feed Room Chemist podcast, where she breaks down complex nutrition topics for everyday horse owners.

Key Considerations in Horse Diets

When designing a diet for horses, Dr. Nichols stresses the importance of understanding the horse's environment, health, and lifestyle. Factors like age, dental health, body condition, workload, and breed play critical roles in determining the right diet.

The Role of Forage in Equine Diets

Forage is crucial in a horse's diet. As herbivores, horses rely on roughage for fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive system. The type of forage provided should align with the horse's nutritional needs, with options ranging from grass hay to nutrient-rich alfalfa.

Understanding and Choosing the Right Forage

Choosing the right forage involves balancing the horse's nutritional needs with what is available in your geographic area. For example, alfalfa is ideal for high-performance horses, hard keepers, and broodmares due to its higher nutrient content. Conversely, horses prone to obesity may benefit from lower-calorie grasses like Bermuda or Bahia.

Addressing Colic and Digestive Health

Proper nutrition is key to minimizing the risk of colic. Dehydration is a common cause, so ensuring horses have consistent access to water is vital. Dr. Nichols recommends using metabolic pH balancers and electrolytes to encourage water intake and maintain digestive health.

Navigating Supplements and Feed Labels

In the realm of supplements, distinguishing between nutritional and functional supplements is essential. Nutritional supplements address basic dietary needs, while functional supplements target specific biological processes. When evaluating horse feeds, Dr. Nichols advises looking beyond crude protein and fat content, focusing instead on amino acid profiles and the quality of ingredients.

Practical Nutrition Tips

Understanding the origin of your horse feed is important. Bluebonnet Feeds, for instance, is an ionophore-free facility, prioritizing horse health by avoiding ingredients harmful to equines. Additionally, horse owners should follow feed label directions closely and understand the weight of feed portions to avoid over or underfeeding.

Dr. Nichols emphasizes the need for horse owners to be proactive and informed about their horse's nutrition. By understanding the specific needs of their equines and choosing the right forage and supplements, owners can ensure their horses lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

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Listen & watch Dr. Nichols' episode below! 

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